COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Saskatchewan.
For the second straight day, a new daily record for cases in the province was set.
The province reported 506 new cases on Tuesday, the fourth day in the past five that it has reported over 400 new cases.
Dr. Kevin Govender, an ER doctor and family physician in Lloydminster, said hospitals are “chaotic” because frontline health workers are inundated with patients.
Read more: Declared COVID-19 outbreaks in Saskatchewan
“We… keep patients in an ambulance, COVID-positive patients in the ambulance,” he said, “until we have a bed to put the patient in. This happens on a on a regular basis.”
He said the delta variant is driving the jump in admissions the hospital has seen in the last couple of weeks.
“People are getting a lot sicker, quicker,” he told Global News.
He said the hospitals beds are filling up, which is a problem because other people who suffer heart attacks or are hurt in car collisions also need treatment.
Government officials said 88.5 per cent of the new cases are in people not fully vaccinated and just under one-third of the new cases are in people under the age of 19.
Saskatchewan is now reporting how many cases are in children under the age of 12 — those who cannot be vaccinated.
On Tuesday, just under 20 per cent — 101 — of the new cases where in kids under the age of 12.
There were 62 cases in people between the ages of 12 and 19 — 57 who were not vaccinated and four who were not fully vaccinated.
Another 166 cases were reported in the 20 to 39 age group — 143 who were not vaccinated. There were seven cases in those not fully vaccinate and 16 who are fully vaccinated.
The seven-day rolling average for new cases also hit a new high on Tuesday.
The province said the seven-day average was 406 — 33.7 new cases per 100,000 population.
Hospitalizations continued to climb, with officials reporting 225 people in hospital, 43 of whom are in intensive care.
Officials said of those patients in hospital, 75.6 per cent — 170 patients — were not fully vaccinated.
University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine said the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
“These are people, they are people like you and me,” he said.
“They are people who have loved ones, have families. Many of them are children now.”
Muhajarine said he believed the current case counts are a direct result of the provincial government removing all public health orders on July 11, when a little less than 70 per cent of the eligible population was not fully vaccinated.
Since then, he said, vaccination rates have slowed and many Saskatchewan residents attended group events during the summer – allowing the highly transmissible delta variant to spread.
“If you are unvaccinated, if Delta is around, it will find you,” he said.
Premier Scott Moe introduced a new public health order last Friday.
Unvaccinated people who are in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID must now self-isolate for 10 days while a vaccinated person need only self-monitor.
Moe said the measure “will be an incentive for people to re-assess their decision if they have not done so already, about going out and taking one of the highly accessible vaccines.”
Muhajarine called the measure inadequate, telling Global News “it’s like trying to use a household fire extinguisher to put out a forest fire.”
“It doesn’t matter… how many different ways the premier of this province is exhorting people to get vaccinated. They already made up made up their mind.”
He said the province must make masks and vaccines mandatory to stop COVID-19 from infecting more people.
So did Govender.
“Vaccination is the way out of (the pandemic),” he said.
“But in the short term, mandatory masking public health orders are absolutely essential to curb the spread.”
He also said people need to be sensible and keep themselves, and others safe.
As well, he said the provincial government and municipalities should make information about the disease and local case numbers more accessible and more present in their messaging, stating that education will help convince people who aren’t vaccinated to get their shots.
Now that this is the fourth wave, Govender said his hospital has already prepared for a surge in cases.
But the limiting factor this time isn’t space, it’s burnout.
“You’re going to have a situation where you’ve got the same number of people doing a significantly greater amount of work in a facility that has now been expanded to accommodate more COVID-19 patients,” he said.
In a statement, Premier Scott Moe said the new cases and severe outcomes are driven by people who chose not to get vaccinated.
Saskatoon remains the hot spot in the province, with 97 new cases. There are currently 1,026 active cases in the province’s largest city.
Overall, 3,929 cases are active in the province as of Tuesday, with 55,117 cases considered recovered.
Two deaths were reported in the daily update, bringing the overall total to 627 since the start of the pandemic.
One death was reported in the 40 to 59 age group and the second death in the 80-plus age group.